By Rich Coutinho
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Starting tonight the New York Mets begin their most important stretch of games in the 2012 baseball season. Three games in DC against the first place Nationals followed by a six game homestand against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the aforementioned Nationals. They enter tonight’s game trailing the Nationals by six games and three games behind the wild card leaders.
A sweep at the hands of the red-hot Atlanta Braves has heightened the panic among Mets fans but in reality, the litmus test lies in this next 9 days because it will certainly tell us if the Mets can remain in the hunt for the NL East and might even tell us if the wild card hunt remains a possibility as the LA Dodgers represent a potential wild card competitor as well. I understand the angst of the Met fan but this team has shown tremendous bounce-back ability all year and I fully expect them to show that same resiliency in the next nine days.
I know the media is chomping at the bit to bury this team because it fits their narrative scripted in spring training that this team would be cellar dwellers. Some of them have privately been snickering that this house of cards will come tumbling down in short order. All I can say about that is I simply can not live my life feeding off the potential misfortune of others and secondly, this team is tougher than that — I know it.
The recent Mets slump has occurred because of two reasons — the inability of the bullpen to hold a lead and a bad stretch of starting pitching. I believe the struggles of the starters is an aberration and the bullpen woes could be fixed by adding reinforcements by the trade deadline. While I am on that topic, the trade market is still evolving and you can not just snap your fingers and make a trade. That is a sure-fire way to overpay for overrated players or miss out on a better player once all the bullets in your holster have been unloaded. Sandy will make the right trade at the right time–you have to trust him because of one simple reason — he is a proven general manager whose resume shows that.
This team still has David Wright, a suddenly resurgent Ike Davis, and a hot Daniel Murphy along with the steadiness of Ruben Tejada and so I think there is enough offense on the Mets — they average more runs scored on the road than any major league team including those who fashion a designated hitter. The starting pitching will rebound and get a shot in the arm when Matt Harvey arrives on the scene.
While this team waits for bullpen help, they will approach each game in the same way they have all year. One game at a time. There is no need for them to think about the standings or being six games behind in the NL East race. Today is about facing the Nationals and getting Jonathan Niese to stop the bleeding.
And for the next nine days, they will do that every single day. At the end of this stretch, we will know whether this team is here to stay. Most of the baseball world thinks they will fade into the sunset. I firmly believe the Mets have other ideas and will continue to prove the baseball world wrong. Am I crazy? Maybe but all great finishes in sports start with crazy ideas.
What’s your short-term prediction for the Mets. Leave a comment below.